Video: Trooper: ‘I should have lost my life’ in I-70 shooting
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — State Trooper Eugene Hofacker had his gun drawn as he approached the driver of a disabled car in Glenwood Canyon on May 8, but didn’t see the man’s gun soon enough and was shot, he said in his first public account of the incident.
Two months after he was shot four times in the incident, Hofacker spoke about the experience at an Aug. 8 graduation ceremony for Colorado Mountain College’s Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy.
Kathy Trauger, whose son was among the graduates, recorded the 20-minute speech and Monday evening shared it as part of a blog post on the event after Hofacker consented.
“It was very emotional,” she recalled. “You could have heard a pin drop in the room. There was a realization that really, even in this area, things can and do happen.”
Hofacker, despite medication for what he said is daily pain and with some hesitance, spoke with clarity and gravity about his experience and what it taught him, while still managing to crack a few jokes.
“I never thought so early in my career that I’d be asked to do something like this, but I guess it’s the reality of my new circumstance,” he said. “If I can help save a life, or tell my story and motivate a fellow officer, then it’s worth it.”
Hofacker briefly recounted the events of May 8, adding a new perspective to those already familiar with the story.
He and Trooper Shane Gosnell were on their way to a training in Glenwood Springs when they encountered a stopped car on the side of the road. They pulled up behind the vehicle and Hofacker approached 40-year-old Thomas Ornelas, who was visibly intoxicated. The plates on the car didn’t match, and Hofacker was on guard and had his weapon drawn when Ornelas stepped out of the car, but didn’t see the gun until it was too late. Ornelas shot him three times as they faced each other, then once more as Hofacker tried to retreat.
“The driver made up his mind that morning … that he was not going back to jail, and that at any cost he was going to take me out by any means necessary,” Hofacker said. “Unfortunately for him, he didn’t realize how resilient I am … (and he) also wasn’t aware that I had a secret weapon that day, one super trooper named Shane Gosnell.”
Gosnell returned fire, hitting Ornelas 11 times and ultimately killing him.
Cpl. Coby Smart was soon on the scene and tending to Hofacker, who was bleeding profusely from a wound in his leg.
“On that day I nearly lost my life — matter of fact I should have lost my life,” Hofacker recalled. “The doctors can’t understand why I’m alive. It’s truly a miracle and I’m grateful to be here.”
He credited Gosnell and Smart with saving his life.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that those two troopers were quick on their feet and took action to help me survive.” w said.
Hofacker encouraged the new graduates to know their fellow officers, to prepare their loved ones for the realities of the job, and most of all to persevere.
“You’ll face adversity, whether it’s being shot or just having a bad day at work,” he said. “Keep pushing forward. Don’t let the pain or agony get you down.”